What is the meaning of life? Ecclesiastes asks this and other difficult questions but is unique in the way it answers them. The author of Ecclesiastes aims to show us how vain life "under the sun" is, despite anyone's most lofty attempts to make it meaningful. The only solution Ecclesiastes offers us comes from above the sun - namely from God. Only when we see how God brings meaning into our lives through the revelation of Jesus can we interact with this world in a way that escapes vanity and builds meaning.
At a Glance
NIV Bible Ecclesiastes Introduction
Ecclesiastes is the collected words of a “teacher” or “preacher.” The Teacher is described as having been king over Israel in Jerusalem, and as the son of David. Both of these mean that he was in the royal line of Judah. He is not further identified, and while tradition identifies him with Solomon, it is appropriate to leave this cloak of anonymity in place.
The repeated phrase Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless! warns us that life’s rewards are uncertain and ultimately unsatisfying. The Teacher pursues this insight in a long discourse that shifts between prose and poetry, and between autobiography and straightforward teaching. The book makes observations and poses questions, returning to themes like the wind— round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.
When the Teacher says What is crooked cannot be straightened, he reminds us that something wrong has intruded into our world. This fits the larger Jewish story told in the rest of the Scriptures. Setting things right again is what this bigger drama is about. The Teacher, however, does not tell us about God’s attempts at straightening the world. He is content to say that God is sovereign over all things and it is our duty to follow his ways for living, since God will bring every deed into judgment.